Comparing Bulls/Heat after 3-0 Starts

by Jeff Fogle 22. April 2011 00:19

Both Chicago and Miami are up 3-0 in their respective first round Eastern Conference series. Tough to say they've been equally impressive though. Let's take a closer look at what both teams are doing through the first week of playoff action...

We'll start with Chicago and their Thursday night win over Indiana.

If you were just scoreboard watching tonight, or you only saw the final score, you might be thinking that the Bull's 88-84 Game Three victory was a replay of the 96-90 Game Two nailbiter. Nip and tuck the whole way. Chicago knows how to close and Indiana doesn't. Yawn. Believe it or not, the two games had little in commmon!

Here's a brief listing of the extreme differences.


Game Two: Rose/Boozer 46%, Others 33%
Game Three: Rose/Boozer 21%, Others 50%

Maybe the other Bulls got tired of hearing about how Derrick Rose was carrying the whole load. And, maybe Rose finally showed some fatigue from carrying the whole load. Rose had a mostly horrible game (4 of 18 shooting, 5 turnovers) until the final minutes when he once again flew at the basket and got the necessary points for a victory. Boozer was just 2 of 10 himself with 3 turnovers in 32 minutes. Everyone else leapt from 15 of 46 in Game Two to 22 of 44 in Game Three.

Game Two: Chicago 5/14, Indiana 6/17
Game Three: Chicago 9/20, Indiana 1/10

It's kind of amazing that Indiana lost a heartbreaker in the first game while going 10 of 18 from long range...then lost another heartbreaker in the second game with a 6 of 17 performance...then lost another heartbreaker in the third game with just 1 of 10. It's like Chicago does just enough to win regardless of whatever challenge is facing them. The Bulls had their first good game from long range this evening.

Game Two: Chicago 81, Indiana 72
Game Three: Chicago 61, Indiana 81

It figures that this would reverse if the treys reversed. Indiana didn't shoot well, but gave themselves a lot of extra opportunities with 15 offensive rebounds.

Game Two: Chicago 57, Indiana 33
Game Three: Chicago 42, Indiana 42

And, those offensive boards help neutralize what had been a big problem in the first two games. Indiana is so close to making this a first round shocker. They just can't get the puzzle pieces to line up at the same time.

So, the final margins were similar. If you were watching Miami/Philadelphia on your TV and just monitoring the margins here at the bottom of the screen, you might think Game Three of Chicago/Indiana presented a continuation of earlier themes. Not the case. Many of the guts were turned inside out. But, in the end, the better team still found a way to score points when it mattered most.

It's a good sign for Chicago that they have workable options late in close games. Indiana hasn't figured out what to do yet, and probably won't in time to make a difference this year. You have to wonder though if Chicago will be able to get those same late points in later rounds vs. tougher opposition. Derrick Rose is going to get the calls vs. Indiana. Will he if he's running into Dwight Howard in the next round, or the South Beach Stars in the Eastern finals, or the Lakers bigs in a championship round?

Current problem areas for Chicago...

Game One: Chicago 14, Indiana 10
Game Two: Chicago 21, Indiana 17
Game Three: Chicago 15, Indiana 11

It may be fun to watch Rose scoot through the land of the giants. It's a very sloppy way to attack an opposing defense though. This may be at the heart of why the Bulls are having so much trouble putting distance between themselves and opponents lately...even borderline or non-playoff caliber opponents. This is likely to matter when they step up in class.

TWO-POINT SHOOTING (compared to Miami in a segue warning!)
Game One: Chicago 48%, Miami 47%
Game Two: Chicago 39%, Miami 54%
Game Three: Chicago 42%, Miami 44% 

Indiana's defense is comparable to Philadelphia's in terms of efficiency for the season. Chicago isn't measuring up to Miami against a similar challenge in an important stat or in a few others. Let's run the numbers from Miami's victory tonight for some contrast.

Two-Point Percentage: Miami 48%, Philadelphia 44%
Three-Point Shooting: Miami 4/12, Philadelphia 9/21
Free Throw Shooting: Miami 24/30, Philadelphia 13/19
Rebounding: Miami 50, Philadelphia 34
Scoring on 1's and 2's: Miami 88, Philadelphia 67

This is a much simpler series to explain than Chicago/Indiana. Miami dominates 1's and 2's  every game. Philadelphia has to make a lot of treys just to be in the neighborhood. And, the Sixers aren't much of a trey team.

Game One: Miami 85, Philadelphia 68
Game Two: Miami 85, Philadelphia 55
Game Three: Miami 88, PHiladelphia 67

Games One and Three were virtual replays in this stat. Philly started cold and never got their heads on straight in the tweener. Trey edges of 7-4, 6-3, and 9-4 for the Sixers (a surprise given Miami's 6.7 to 5.4 edge in the regular season) kept us from having three blowouts.

Game One: Miami 52, Philadelphia 39
Game Two: Miami 46, Philadelphia 40
Game Three: Miami 50, Philadelphia 34

This is obviously a significant contributor to the edge in 1's and 2's. Miami's been giving themselves a lot of second chances (15-8-20 in offensive rebounds per game), while denying those on the other side of the floor.

The strikes against Miami so far are in the area of forced turnovers (just 8, 12, and 6---suggesting that they're focusing defensively on clogging the paint and boxing out rather than swiping at the ball), and three-pointers (11 of 44 so far for a poor 25%). Miami's winning by an average of 11.7 points per game, and has been below par from long range. That's a scary thought for the rest of the East. Chicago's winning by an average of 5.0 points per game, and is 20 of 54 on treys (near norms for makes and percentage).

It's not a sure thing that Chicago and Miami will meet in the Eastern finals. It's the best expectation though, so we might as well start thinking about it now that we're seeing both teams under the playoff spotlight. Miami's been more impressive out of the gate and has some additional upside potential. Chicago's grinder style looks to have less upside, and will place a lot of pressure on Derrick Rose in the final minutes of close games.

Dallas-Portland was a very late starter Thursday. Will compile some notes for that in Friday's report. Here are some thoughts from the Lakers win late Wednesday over New Orleans.


*Kobe Bryant only took 10 shots. He was 3 of 10 Wednesday after going 13 of 26 in Sunday's loss. He took some criticism in the media for shooting so much Sunday. Every so often he gets in the mindset of "fine, watch what happens when I don't shoot." As is often the case then that happens, the Lakers played a lot better!

Lamar Odom was 8 of 12 instead of 3 of 6
Andrew Bynum was 8 of 11 instead of 4 of 7

You also got a much better sense of camraderie on defense for the Lakers too, as they held New Orleans to 40% on two-pointers after allowing 54% on deuces Sunday.

Kind of amazing how often Kobe has to re-learn this lesson.

*Pau Gasol was a disappointing 2 of 10 after shooting 2 of 9 in the opener. He may not "need" to get on track in this series. The Lakers will be even more dangerous when he starts making some shots.

*The Lakers forced 16 turnovers instead of just three. It's interesting that New Orleans shot 4/11 on treys in both games, and had similar free throw results with 23 of 33 and 20 of 32. Yet, they plummeted from 109 points to 78 points because the Lakers were so much more effective defensively after making adjustments and realizing they had to actually show up and play the game!

*Los Angeles has been +8 in rebound differential in both games. This is a "defense and rebounding" team when things are going well. It's important to watch those categories for the Lakers throughout the playoffs as we determine if a potential three-peat is imminent or not.

Back late Friday with notes from Dallas/Portland and the early evening action...

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4/22/2011 4:45:29 PM #


Laker ORTG GM 1: 110.7
Laker ORTG GM 2: 101.8

I am a Laker fan, so take this FWIW:

Mostly really like your stuff, but stat guys mixing breakdowns with Kobe cheap shots/mind-reading is generally a bad move analytically--ask Matt Moore and Henry Abbott if you don't believe me.

Kobe probably shot less in large part because he spent more energy on D, helping to contain Chris Paul, and after he went off for 34 in GM 1, the Hornets worked on him a little more.  

I agree that Bynum and Odom need more touches against this team, but you notice that Kobe's supposed petulance didn't help Gasol any.

Kobe is not the only guy on the Lakers, and what he does is not the only factor that determines what happens to the team. Kind of amazing how often stat guys and media guys need to re-learn this lesson.

lakerboy United States

4/22/2011 6:52:47 PM #

Jeff Fogle

Thanks for you comments LB. I was typing near midnight and forgot to put in the connection with Kobe's change in defensive assignments. Clearly an influence there I think everyone would agree. Kobe focused a lot of energy on slowing down Chris Paul. As a result, there was more team play on both sides of the ball.

It's tough to pin the decrease in offensive rating on Kobe taking less shots though. His teammates picked up his slack on field performance(46% on two's in both games for the team). Kobe shot 8 free throws in both games. The biggest difference was in team free throws, where the Lakers dropped from 26 of 33 in G1 to 15 of 22 in G2 even though Kobe's FT attempts didn't change (he did make two fewer in G2). So, we have an odd mix of Kobe taking a lot of shots, but all of his teammates getting more FT's in G1.

Lakers points on 2's and 3's
Game One: 74 points
Game Two: 72 points

And, it's not like the Lakers were getting a ton of offensive rebounds in G1 to set up fouls on putbacks. They only had 9 in G1, but 13 in G2. Might have been some differences in how refs called fouls in the paint. And, Lakers attacked aggressively when trailing in the 2nd Half Sunday (53 points when trying to come from behind in a 9-point loss), but may have hurt their efficiency some while sitting on a lead in G2 (40 points in the 2nd Half while protecting a 9-point win). Or, possessions that were ending with FT attempts Sunday weren't ending with FT's in G2.

Also want to point out that I think there's at least good circumstantial evidence (never seen a comprehensive study) that teams play better defense themselves when they don't have a ball hog taking all the shots on offense. I was playing around with Wizards boxscores one year...and you could basically see in the numbers that they stopped guarding people on the nights Arenas was doing all the shooting. At the worst, you have spoiled millionaire's kind of saying to themselves "If I don't get to shoot, what's the point of killing myself on defense?" Don't think the Lakers would necessarily act like that in a playoff game. But, at least it makes sense that getting everyone involved on offense helps keep everyone involved on the whole floor. You have a team against the world instead of big guys getting impatient because they're not getting the ball when open. I made a note to say "the team played a lot better" rather than "the offense got better."

Will be interesting to see how the Lakers perform in the various offensive categories, and how Kobe's shot attempts fluctuate (or don't) from this point forward. Best of luck in your hopes for a 3-peat...

Jeff Fogle United States

4/22/2011 11:25:57 PM #

Joe Patrick

Is HoopData updating box scores anymore on the website?  You're stuck on 4-18.

Joe Patrick United States

4/22/2011 11:36:02 PM #


If you were watching all the games then the reason that Rose was different is that they played him different so he took what the defenses gave him. The box score doesn't tell how things happened, it just says what happened.

The Pacers were putting George and Jones in double teams on Rose which left either a)Collison guarding Korver, i.e. mismatch or b)Granger alone on Deng, i.e. mismatch.
Boozer was just sucking.

Anyway, it wasn't really a case of Rose getting tired or of his teammates getting tired of hearing about how bad they were. It was a case of playing smart basketball and knowing what to do to win.

BTW people seem to be completely oblivious to the reality that the only player in the NBA to take more FTA after the All-Star break than Rose was Howard. It's not like this whole "getting fouls" thing is new to him. Nor is it a particularly wild notion that the newly anointed MVP might be getting some star treatment.

Of course this all assumes that Orlando wins the series against Atlanta too, which is a far from foregone conclusion.

It's almost like people are trying to find new and creative reasons to discount the Bulls.

Kelly United States

4/23/2011 12:58:36 AM #

Jeff Fogle

Joe, Joe Treutlein has mentioned in his tweets that he's been having formatting issues with the playoff boxscores. I believe we're looking at early next week before that's resolved. Looking forward to resolution myself so we can include consistent pace data and update what's been happening on shots inside of 10 feet since we talked about that category at the start of the playoffs. I know Joe's been frustrated by issues with the source...and is working on getting things back on track.

Kelly, agree with many of your sentiments about Rose and the Bulls in general. Tough, though, I think to say that he was taking "what the defense gave him" when he was 4 of 18 from the field. I did watch the game, and he wasn't effectively dealing with the challenge most of the evening. He only had 2 assists to go along with 14 missed shots and 5 turnovers. His teammates were 7 of 14 on treys, yet he only had 2 assists. And, at the team level, tough to make the case that "smart basketball" led to 39% shooting and 15 turnovers.

I do think the team has a smart approach to late game dynamics. And, I know the stathead writers in particular have been talking about how aggressive Rose has been since New Year's in terms of attacking the basket and earning trips to the free throw line. That's been a theme many writers have been emphasizing rather than being oblivious to.

Don't mean to dismiss Chicago as a championship threat. Just pointing out that they've been less impressive than Miami thus far in the first three games, while facing what is generally perceived to be a weaker opponent.    

Jeff Fogle United States

5/4/2011 9:52:38 AM #


Inspirational and insightful post.

DWI NJ United States

5/4/2011 7:55:45 PM #

DWI NJ Surcharge

Great blog, but MS beta software... really? For my blog, I'd switch to WP (wordpress) - I ended up having to due to spammers, and I use 'Akismet' now. Try it out!

DWI NJ Surcharge United States

3/5/2012 3:35:28 AM #


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